child being hugged at workshop

“A breath of fresh air”

We’re really excited to be running KidsTime Workshops in Gloucestershire! These workshops provide a space for families where a parent has a mental illness to come together, with opportunities for children to explore themes such as bullying, empathy and responsibility through drama and games.

After weeks of planning, recruiting facilitators and volunteers, looking for a suitable venue and meeting new families, we welcomed our first families through the doors. All the attendees (including the staff!) were slightly apprehensive and nervous at the beginning of the workshop, but by the time the pizzas arrived the families were relaxed and connecting; all the children were playing a quick game of hide and seek outside and the parents were really chatting with each other.

By the end of the session the parents were swapping social media details and phone numbers. It took quite a while for the families to leave that evening as everyone was ‘buzzing’ – the children wanted to stay to play with each other and the parents wanted to continue chatting. By the time we locked up the venue that evening all the staff were exhausted but felt exhilarated!

One parent told the group that the definition of mental illness shared by the mental health lead described exactly how she felt. She didn’t know that other people might feel like that too and presumed she was the only one. Another described the session as “a breath of fresh air,” and a child said she “enjoyed having fun and making new friends.”

We knew that KidsTime was going to have a huge positive impact on these families.

All the families came back for the October workshop looking more relaxed and excited, and we managed to get them singing and playing percussion instruments at the start of the seminar! It was obvious that the parents had been in regular contact with each other over the last month, and the children came bounding in with special things from home that they wanted to show us. Provision of a volunteer-run creche in an adjoining room also improved everyone’s capacity to engage with the session.

The families came together at the end of the session to watch videos made by the children, which was very powerful, with one parent commenting: “I’ve realised that the children understand so much more than we think they do – they are all so intelligent.”

By the end of the workshop we felt we had achieved what we had set out to accomplish when one parent said “we are building a community” and another shared that “although mental health is a serious topic, it is good to have fun.” The workshop certainly had a big impact on one child, who exclaimed “this has got me into acting – I now want to go into films and be an actor.” So watch out Hollywood!